Chapter 1 - Prologue
“Is that right?”
“Wouldn’t it be better for you to stay here as Grand Duchess of Berg? When spring comes, you can go up to the capital with His Highness.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
The first thing Seria did was to look at the ledger that Linon had brought with him. Of course, she also had a small dignity maintenance fee that she received at the temple every month. This was a bit….
‘How many zeros are there?’
“How much do you want me to spend here?”
“It’s all internal administration money.”
Seria realized a beat too late.
“Of course. To govern such a large territory, you would need a budget of this amount.”
“Yes, I see.”
“Let’s try to divide it by season, and then by month.”
Linon said, tilted his head.
“In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a yearly budget.”
“Oh, you mean a quarterly budget?”
“No, it’s a monthly budget.”
‘Oh my God. That’s a lot.’
So they have to pay this much every month?
Suddenly, Seria was reminded of her life as a graduate student in the lab, organizing research expenses and salaries for each teacher. It was hard work even then, but now, with this much money…she would need a bookkeeper.
Linon whispered like a fairy telling a secret.
“Spending a lot of money is more interesting than you think.”
I see. It’s interesting.
At first, Seria couldn’t find the surplus fund in the ledger right away. It was because her insight was too limited. She didn’t think of it as surplus funds because the amount was too large…
There was a reason why Linon always looked so tired.
He had a germophobia disorder and was a perfectionist. Of course he must have been guilty of the settings whenever he thought about his aide.
“May I use the budget for the Laurel Manor?”
“Of course. The shadows are gone now. You may decorate it as you wish.”
“I’d like to work in the warm spring instead of the winter.”
Apparently, they had changed the decorations in the mansion in the winter.
“I understand. Hmm. There’s a lot to take care of at the manor, and the garden needs to be redone. You’ll need a lot of workers.”
“Can I increase this much?”
“A little more would be fine.”
Linon took the pen from Seria and added a few more neat zeros.
“My Lady….Weren’t you very extravagant?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
Linon said he had been cheeky, but made no pretense of being sorry. It was true that the original Seria was very extravagant. But this Seria wasn’t.
‘Have I ever lived the life of a noble woman?’
The original Seria was a daughter of a Marquis of the prestigious Kellyden family, but this Seria didn’t want to use her money to do the same thing.
The sense of money associated with the inner affairs of the family was usually learned from her mother. But Marquis Kellyden hated Seria dearly, and Seria’s biological mother, well…needless to say….
Moreover, ever since she possessed the real Seria, she had been living a frugal life to pay off her debts monthly.
After checking with the help of Linon, Seria found something strange.
“Why is it so expensive to buy cleaning supplies?”
Linon jumped up and said quickly.
”My Lady! Those are necessities!”
“No, I understand, but the amount is too big. Do you use all of this?”
“I use them all.”
“Don’t you have enough money to buy half of the dresses in the dress shop every month?”
“That’s not embezzlement!”
“No….. Who’s to say what ….”
Seria smiled in vain. The book checking stopped when another aide came to talk to Linon.
‘Oh, I have something I want to discuss with Lesche too. Is it okay if I go now?’
After putting the ledgers neatly in the safe, Seria went to Lesche’s office. The knights outside bowed their heads when they saw her.
‘What is it? Should I go back?’
She knew Lesche had been in a meeting since dawn, but she couldn’t believe he was still in session. Seria was just about to turn around, suddenly a voice called her from the inside of the office.
“My Lady, come in.”
What kind of free pass was this? She didn’t think he would be looking for her separately. Even though she wondered, she went in anyway.
There were a few vassals waiting outside, but there were many inside Lesche’s office.
Seria accepted the greetings from the vassals and walked towards Lesche. Waiting at the front of the desk was a young man with an unfamiliar face. Lesche was holding a pen with a weary expression. He looked at Seria and gestured with his hand.
Seria walked closer, and a nearby aide quickly brought her a chair. She inadvertently sat down next to Lesche. Then, he held out a pile of papers.
“Do you want any of these?”
It was abrupt, but she glanced over the paper. It was a list of things such as iron carts, medicines, holy relics, mining rights.
[Please choose one of the above items.]
There was also a note attached to the document. But there was nothing that attracted Seria’s attention.
At Seria’s response, Lesche covered the file without any further questions. The pen was once again in the ink bottle.
“Great, Grand Duke!”
Then the face of the young man waiting near the desk turned pale.
“Up until now, you just choose one and sign it…”
“I’ve changed my mind.” Lesche said.
Even though Seria didn’t know the circumstances before and after, she could see it clearly. They would cancel it just because there was nothing Seria liked.
That was what the man who turned blue seemed to think. He unintentionally resented her, and when their gazes met, he cast his eyes down in surprise.
‘Is he from the Capital?’
He seemed like he was scared and avoided Seria’s gaze from the start, especially when she wasn’t even staring at him. She didn’t know who he was, but he seemed to be someone who was well aware of Seria’s incredible notoriety.
‘So what is it? What’s going on?’
“I’ll have a meeting with the vassals again and call you.”
“His Highness, Grand Duke Berg…!”
Lesche’s eyes froze in the blink of an eye.
“Don’t make me say it twice…”
The man puffed out a breath. He immediately changed his attitude.
“Yes, Your Highness. Please be generous. But if it’s really not enough, contact me again…”
The man who had been struggling for a while finally backed down. Seria was expecting the next vassal to arrive soon, but they were too busy having a small meeting among themselves. There was no sign of Lesche calling for anyone either, so she opened her mouth.
“Lesche? Who is that man?”
“He’s a vassal from Duke Howard’s household.”
Seria widened her eyes. Duke Howard, Duke Howard…It was the family where people had ties with Seria.
Queen Ekisel, who had competed with Seria Stern for the Red Diamond for some time, was from the Howard family.
“What’s that list you just gave me?”
“It’s the list of compensation for getting rid of Magi that Howard presented this year.”
Seria covered her mouth with both hands.
This world in the original story was set to be tainted by Magi. Numerous lands on the continent were contaminated by Magi, including the vast lands of the Glick Empire. Even in the territory of Grand Duke Berg, there were places that were abandoned.
Land contaminated by magi could not be inhabited. It was also a problem that decent land could not be used for living, but what about the land that was rich in natural resources in the first place? Naturally, they would be determined to get it back.
Whether it were mines buried in gold or rich farmlands with abundant yields. The imperial nobles have clashed with the imperial family many times in order to reclaim their highly valuable properties. The nobles wanted to raise knights wearing the Holy gold armor and reclaimed their lands, but from the imperial family’s point of view, it was dangerous for the noble families to expand the size of their private armies.
There was a method devised after decades of siege, and it was to proceed with the defeat of the tainted lands once every three years. The families of the chosen lands would send forth their knights to add to their forces, and the firepower thus created would drive out Magi.
Of course, when asked if it was a fair service, it wasn’t. Every year, the family that received the most votes in the Noble Council would be the beneficiary, but this was because every family took advantage of the blind spot of voting rule.
Recently, it was the Duke of Howard, the family of Queen Ekisel. Vainly holding their seats, they decided to reclaim the land of the Howard family this year as they did three years ago.
They gave compensation to the Berg family in return for Magi’s defeat. Every three years, after the compensation list was approved, the defeat began. As was customary, Duke Howard should have made a compensation inventory for the defeat and sent it to Grand Duke Berg. He did, but….
Unknowingly, Seria disliked all the things in the compensation list, therefore, the compensation was denied.
Seria didn’t feel sorry for Duke Howard. What could she do anyway? They should bring something more to her liking.
Of course the compensation over the years wasn’t much, nonetheless, the Berg family silently cooperated in order to defeat Magi. This time, however, it was a terrible list.
“When will you be free?”
“I’m free now.”
Seria glanced at the vassals for a moment, who were glancing at her and Lesche.
“Call me later when you have time. It would be nice to have a cup of tea together.”
As soon as Lesche spoke, the aide behind him immediately stepped forward.